The Maldives sit like pristine jewels in the middle of the Indian
Ocean, far from any other country or land mass. This is the wild west
of divingsmall oases of coral that stretch over a horizon of blue.
Diving here takes on three distinct forms, all of which revolve around
the term atoll. Used frequently to describe island groups across the
tropical Pacific, atoll is actually a Maldivian word describing the
idyllic ring-like coral islands that make up the Maldives 1,000-island
group. Covering 450 miles from north to south, the atolls range in size
from tiny spits of sand to third largest in the world.
The first form of diving takes place in the kandu, or channels, between
islands where the tide flows in and out of lagoons. These usually have
strong current and are good places to see bigger creatures. Diving on
the maa kandu, or the outer area of the atoll, features sloping reefs
and greater depth. Or, divers can explore the thila, the areas inside
the atoll lagoons, generally with much milder currents.
This system of atolls, reefs and channels is at the mercy of the tides,
which make for strong currents and ample opportunities for drift dives.
(Divers are advised to use a safety sausage and other surface signaling
equipment at all times.) Visibility depends on tides and seasons and
differences can be dramatic. The southwestern monsoon creates plankton
blooms (typically on the eastern side of the atolls) that make the water
a bit soupy from April to October, but with the advantage of pelagics
coming in to feed on the nutrient-rich waters. Manta Rays and Whale
Sharks are frequent visitors during this time. In November, the monsoon
switches from southwestern to northeastern, the visibility improves,
and the pelagics move to the western side of the atolls.
I saw sharks and turtles on almost every dive. And, the thilas just
off the Baa Atoll are a favorite spot for feeding Manta Rays. There
are also eagle rays and stingrays for additional visual excitement.
The turtle population is healthy, too. Incidentally, the fee for laundry
service at the Soneva Resort goes to the protection of sea turtles.
The one thing to be sure of is that after making the effort to get to
the Maldives, you should stay as long
as possible. Time in paradise goes quickly.
Special thanks to Banyan Tree Resort, Four Seasons Resort, Singapore
Airlines and Soneva Fushi for accommodations and diving.
The Maldives are not the easiest place in the world to get to, which
is again one of the reasons it is so unspoiled. From the West Coast
of the U.S., fly to Singapore with the carrier of your choice, then
Singapore Airlines to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Via
Europe or the Middle East there are a few more options. When you arrive
into the Maldives by air you arrive on the airport island. There is
an airport hotel scheduled to open to accommodate guests overnight en
route to other atolls.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
The climate of Maldives is warm year-round and determined by the monsoons.
However, being on the equator, the monsoons are mild and not as defined
as in neighboring countries. Of the two monsoons, the southwest monsoon
from May to October brings some rain and wind. The northeast monsoon
from November to April is the dry season with very little wind.
Temperatures are constant throughout the year, usually 85°F.
Ranges from 82 to 86°F.
1.00 (USD) = 11.77 MVR (Maldives Rufiyaa)
Eastern Standard Time plus 10 hours.
Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (011) 960-323228 www.visitmaldives.com
Singapore Airlines (800) 742-3333 AAA Hotels & Resorts
(011) 960-316131 www.aaatravel-maldives.com Banyan Tree Maldives
Vabinfaru (Vabinfaru, North Malé Atoll) (011) 960-443147
e-mail: email@example.com Four Seasons Resort Maldives
at Kuda Huraa (800) 545-4000 www.fourseasons.com Hulhule Island
Hotel, Male (011) 960-330888 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Island Dreams
Travel (800) 346-6116 www.divetrip.com Maldives Scuba Tours (011)
44-1449-780220 e-mail: email@example.com Ocean Travel &
Tours (011) 960-320435 www.ocean.com.mv Sea N Sea Pvt. Ltd. (011)
960-325634 www.manthiri.com Seafari Adventures S.R.I. (011) 39-039-329338
tures.com Soneva Fushi Island, Baa Atoll (011) 960-230-304/5